Top 11 Arizona Super Bowl Moments

Jess HarterJanuary 6, 2023
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Greater Phoenix now has four iterations of the NFL’s premier event on its collective stat sheet – providing plenty of political drama, celebrity intrigue and assorted late-game heroics for this all-time Super Bowl highlight reel.

No. 11

Short Attention Span
January 2008

In the weeks leading up to Arizona’s second Super Bowl, Los Angeles rock band Eels makes headlines by trying to buy a one-second ad – featuring front man Mark Oliver Everett simpling saying the letter ‘’U,’’ referencing the first letter of their new album’s title – for $100,000. After Fox insists ads for Super Bowl XLII be sold in 30-second blocks, the band tries to recruit 29 other one-second advertisers, but the network shoots down the idea, telling Everett the rapid-fire ads “could cause people with certain medical conditions to have seizures.”
The Eels’ Mark Oliver Everett
The Eels’ Mark Oliver Everett

No. 10

Fish Out of Water
February 1, 2015

Pop mega-star Katy Perry’s halftime performance at Super Bowl XLIX – Arizona’s third time hosting the game – is the most-watched in history, but it’s one of the two shark-costumed dancers flanking her who inadvertently steals the show. Los Angeles hairstylist Bryan Gaw’s clumsy dance moves go viral as “Left Shark” spawns countless internet memes. “There’s a set [type of] choreography,” Gaw says later, explaining his improvisational, out-of-sync movements. “And there’s also what’s called freestyle choreography, or, like, you get to move around or play your character as a dancer.” Evidently, he was doing the latter.

No. 9

O Say Can You See
February 3, 2008

Held at 2-year-old University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Super Bowl XLII kicks off with the national anthem sung by 17-year-old hometown hero Jordin Sparks. A few months prior, the daughter of former Arizona State University football star Phillippi Sparks captivated the Valley and much of America en route to winning Fox’s American Idol.

No. 8

Talk About Deflation…
January 2015

As national sports media descends on the Valley for Super Bowl XLIX, the hot topic all week is “Deflategate” – a controversy that ensued after the New England Patriots were accused of under-inflating balls during the previous week’s AFC Championship Game. (Under-inflated footballs are presumably easier to catch.) Asked at a press conference if he cheated, quarterback Tom Brady replies, “I don’t think so.” Two years later, after commissioning an 80,000-word report – longer than The Catcher in the Rye – the NFL suspends Brady for four games.
Photo courtesy NBC
Photo courtesy NBC

No. 7

… And Inflation
January 2015

The second-biggest topic leading up to the game is ticket prices, which swell to an average of more than $10,000, more than three times the previous year’s. The Orange County Register columnist Jeff Miller notes: “The cheapest seat inside University of Phoenix Stadium was $8,300, which is just slightly less than the annual cost of tuition ($10,188) at the actual University of Phoenix.” The inflated prices, which the NFL blames on short-selling by brokers, remain the highest in history.

No. 6

The Great Escape
January 28, 1996

During the Valley’s first-ever time hosting the game, Motown icon Diana Ross dazzles Super Bowl XXX attendees with a spectacular 14-minute halftime performance that has them singing along with her greatest hits. The show begins with Ross, wearing a red mini dress, lowered by crane onto a pyrotechnics-filled stage with hundreds of dancers covering the playing field. Two costume changes later, Ross coyly proclaims, “Oh, my, here comes my ride,” as a helicopter swoops into the stadium and whisks her away to the crowd’s cheers.

No. 5

Consolation Prize
February 3, 2008

After the Eagles reportedly turn down an offer to perform at halftime of Super Bowl XLII, the NFL turns to Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, whose low-key, few-frills set of four songs hits all the right notes. “Petty … didn’t need to descend from a rooftop,” The Washington Post reports, adding the second-choice band “left everybody Googling for more.” The show receives an Emmy nomination.

No. 4

It’s a Pass!
February 1, 2015

With the Seattle Seahawks poised to score a go-ahead TD from the Patriots’ 1-yard line in the waning seconds of Super Bowl XLIX, quarterback Russell Wilson surprisingly throws a pass that’s intercepted by undrafted Patriots rookie Malcolm Butler, clinching the Pats’ 28-24 victory and their fourth Lombardi Trophy. “You’ve got Marshawn Lynch in the backfield,” NBC commentator Cris Collinsworth says. “You’ve got a guy that has been borderline unstoppable in this part of the field. I can’t believe the call.”

No. 3

The First Kickoff
January 28, 1996 

Eight years after the Bidwill family moved the Cardinals franchise to Arizona, Pittsburgh Steelers placekicker Norm Johnson launches the ball from the 20-yard line at Sun Devils Stadium in Tempe, initiating the start of Super Bowl XXX and ending the state’s long, contentious journey as an NFL pariah. The game brings together two of pro football’s most-storied franchises, the Steelers and the Dallas Cowboys, a star-studded squad led by the Hall of Fame triumvirate of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. However, it’s 12th-round draft pick Larry Brown who ultimately propels Dallas to a 27-17 victory, making two key interceptions from the cornerback position while leading the Cowboys to their third Lombardi Trophy in four years. The game attracts more than 138 million viewers, making it the second-most-watched TV program in history (behind only the series finale of M*A*S*H).

No. 2

The Helmet Catch
February 3, 2008

Trailing 14-10 with just over a minute to play in Super Bowl XLII, New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning heaves a desperate 32-yard pass to receiver David Tyree, who catches the ball by pinning it against his helmet. Four plays later, the underdog Giants score to ruin the New England Patriots’ undefeated season, 17-14, in what later ranks as the greatest Super Bowl ever played. The image of a triumphant Tyree sprawled on the 24-yard line, still in the clutches of the Patriots’ Rodney Harrison, still with the ball comically pinned to his helmet, remains the most indelible of any Arizona Super Bowl. Manning is named the game’s MVP.

No. 1

The Vote
November 3, 1992

Five years after Arizona Governor Evan Mecham rescinds the state holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and two years after voters fail to pass two MLK holiday referendums – prompting NFL owners to move the 1993 Super Bowl from Tempe to Los Angeles – voters finally approve a holiday for the slain civil rights leader. The measure passes by a 61-to-39 percentage margin, paving the way for Arizona to be awarded the 1996 game – and every Super Bowl moment that followed.


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